Learning the Skills to Show Up

One of my living questions is: how do I support authenticity, integrity, connection, and growth in myself and others? This question and my goals of right living are supported when I grow my capacity to meet and be met. Holding space is a key component in this pursuit.

Belonging is born from authenticity. Authenticity and living in wholeness is about living connected to our core, to what is deep inside us: call it a soul, a divine spark, the true self. When we are connected to our center, we are able to connect at deeper levels with others. I live into my wholeness when I am pursuing my values of authenticity and connection; I believe in cultivating a world where I can be as I really am and others can be as they really are – something that happens when I deepen my connection with myself and can then meet others in their depth as well. Having respectful relationships with myself and others is part of my constellation of skilled mastery, of life well lived, of stewardship.

“Holding space is what we do when we walk alongside a person or group on a journey through liminal space. We do this without making them feel inadequate, without trying to fix them, and without trying to impact the outcome. We open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.” Heather Plett

What is Holding Space?

Holding space happens when we release control, striving, and judgement. It is about protecting the time and space people need to listen and follow inner guidance, to let authenticity grow rather than forcing a particular outcome or expectation. It is the means by which we are able to meet people as they really are and be as we really are.

Holding space is a behavior we practice by being present, non-judgmental, and walking alongside. According to Heather Plett, we hold space when we:

  1. Give people permission to trust their own intuition and wisdom.
  2. Give people only as much information as they can handle.
  3. Don’t take their power away.
  4. Keep our own ego out of it.
  5. Help them feel safe enough to fail.
  6. Give guidance and help with humility and thoughtfulness.
  7. Create a container for complex emotions, including fear, trauma, etc
  8. Allow them to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would.

This way of being connects with idea of cherishing as opposed to dominating; we meet people without trying to control them and instead hold them in protective love. We get to protect authenticity as opposed to expectation. We get to see each other clearly instead of projecting onto each other. There is an openness to this way of being together, openness that allows for more grounded and beautiful and true ways of being to emerge. It is an opportunity to be together differently.

When we are able to trust our own intuition and wisdom, we can see those forces at work in others. When we give people only solicited advice or information, we make it possible for them to do the work and build their capacity and confidence intrinsically. Being intentional about not taking people’s power away empowers others; they can access their strengths and abilities and be powerful (able to achieve purpose and effect change). Keeping our own ego out of it allows us to trust the process and let what is true emerge instead of controlling the path. When we help people feel safe enough to fail (especially doing this for ourselves), creates space to be brave.

Brené Brown defines humility by saying: “I’m here to get it right, not to be right.” Giving guidance with humility and thoughtfulness respects the nature of change, that the only person who can change someone is themselves, and it takes the time and mettle that it takes. This also allows us to reflect on our experience and deepen our understanding of ourselves. We hold space to get it right, not to be right. Creating a container for complex emotions makes space for mystery, for deeper insights, and rooted meaning to emerge. Allowing people to make different decisions than you would respects the sovereignty of other people, allows for authenticity, and respects both our connections and our differences.

A Practice that Made Me Better

‘Holding space’ is the name and method for this framework of being relational in a deeply respectful way. Having this language in my life helps me understand what I need to practice to become someone capable of facilitating healing, insight, and connection. When I hold space, I am deliberately behaving in a way that makes it safe for the soul to show up. I recognize that I can’t (and shouldn’t) be ‘fixing’ someone or something. I see that the only person who can change someone is themself (and I am the only person who can change me). As I grow in my ability to hold space, I become a person capable of more connection, integrity, authenticity, and belonging. Holding space in my life and my work is a practice that has made me a better human.

“We hold space to give each other the freedom to do hard and liberating soul work. To heal trauma. To feel deep emotions and express unspoken needs. To transform conflict and rewrite stories of abuse. We hold space to accommodate both light and shadow, agony and delight. To find our path in the world.” Heather Plett